There’s nothing quite like a vacation in the mountains. Get back to nature in the most majestic of settings, and fill your lungs with the crisp, clean air of high-altitude destinations. To celebrate International Mountain Day, we’ve found some of the greatest mountain vacations in the world for hikers, skiers, and outdoor enthusiasts.
Mountains in Europe
The Italian Alps
The north of Italy is bordered by one of the most iconic mountain ranges on Earth; the Alps. This remarkable landscape stretches across the center of Europe, and the Alps in Italy are home to some of the most beautiful mountainous regions on the continent. The Dolomites are the best-known mountains in Italy. It is a region of The Alps that is famous for incredible wild landscapes and beautiful resorts,. The region is also home to the highest mountain in Italy, and in Europe, Mont Blanc.
One of the best things to do in winter in the Italian Alps is skiing. Resorts such as Courmayeur and Val d’Aosta are amongst the world’s glamorous ski destinations in Europe and are as fantastic for apres-ski as they are for their powder slopes. Check out our guide to skiing in Europe for more winter inspiration. In the summer months, people flock to the Italian Northern Italy mountains for outdoor adventures including hiking and driving. When it comes to hiking in the Dolomites, there is one route that stands out. The Geisler Alm is a spectacular 1.5-hour trek along alpine forest paths, ending in the most magnificent Italian mountain views. This is the most Instagrammed spot in the Italian Alps, so make sure that you charge your camera batteries to get your own version of the iconic shot.
How to visit the Italian Alps
The easiest way to visit the Dolomites Mountains in Italy is to hire a car and do a road trip. The mountain roads in the Italian mountain ranges are absolutely spectacular and considered some of the best drives in Europe. You can pick up your car from Milan Airport, which is by far the best place to fly into if you’re visiting the north of Italy. From there you can drive north until you reach the Alps. Italy has many beautiful vacation destinations in this region which make a fantastic stop on an Alpine road trip.
One of the most popular is Lake Como, which is a mountain resort in the Italian Alps. Milan to Lake Como takes about 1.5 hours to drive and is a beautiful trip through the north Italian countryside. Once there, you can use Lake Como as a base to explore the mountains of Italy. Another amazing way to visit the Italian Alps is by train. One of the top rail trips in Europe starts from the pretty town of Tirano on the Swiss-Italian border. From here, guests board the bright red carriages of the Bernina Express, Italy’s premier sightseeing train. The journey winds through some of the most beautiful mountains in the world, with panoramic glass carriages immersing travelers in the wild Alpine landscapes.
The Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain
In the beautiful Andalusia region of Spain are some of Europe’s most popular mountains. The Sierra Nevada Mountains are a top vacation destination to get a taste of the variety and spectacular scenery that Spain is famous for. One of the highlights is Summit Veleta, which is also known as the ‘Roof of Spain’. It looms over the surrounding countryside and can be summited on a day trip from nearby Grenada. It is Spain’s fourth-highest mountain (the highest is Mount Tiede on Tenerife), and climbers who reach the top are met with awesome views over Andalusia.
The Sierra Nevada is home to Europe’s most southerly ski resort. Mountain ranges in Spain might not be your first choice for a ski vacation, but there are over 100 kilometers in the Veleta region, divided into runs ranging from easy to very hard. The ski season is generally from November to early May. Other fantastic outdoor activities in the Spanish mountains include mountain biking, hiking, and snowboarding.
Mountains in France
We’re heading back to the Alps for our next European mountain destination. The mountain ranges in France are famous for their glamorous ski resorts with jaw-dropping mountain backdrops. Chamonix, Val d’Isere, and Courcheval are just a few of the top ski resorts in the French Alps. The highest mountain in France, Mont Blanc, stands like a silent sentinel over Chamonix ski resort, which features some of the most exhilarating runs on the planet, alongside some of the most wonderful mountain views.
Visiting the famous mountains in France is easy from the south of the country. Vacation hotspots such as the Cote d’Azur and Provence are within easy reach of the Alps. You can get from the beaches of the South of France to the mountainous landscape of the Alps in a few hours by road or rail.
Mount Olympus in Greece
If you like your mountains with a side order of ancient history, then Mount Olympus in Greece is for you. It is the highest mountain in Greece and revered in mythology as the lofty home of Zeus, Hera, and the whole pantheon of Greek Gods. Mount Olympus stands in the regions of Thessaly and Macedonia in the northeast of Greece. It is not part of the famous Meteora mountains in Greece, but it is only 2.5 hours away by road, so easy to do as a multi-center Greek mountain vacation.
Hiking Mount Olympus is perfectly doable for experienced climbers. It is not a particularly difficult climb, but it is not to be underestimated. Several people are rescued from the slopes of Mount Olympus every year. A full trek to the summit takes 2 – 3 days, but there are shorter trails on the most scenic parts of the mountain. For inexperienced climbers, the wonders of Olympus are not lost. You can go as part of an organized tour with an expert guide to guide you along the trails.
Mountains in Asia
Thailand – Doi Inthanon
If there’s a country that takes the crown for spectacular landscapes, it’s Thailand. Mountains are a feature across the country, but particularly in the north, around Chiang Mai. Doi Inthanon National Park is home to the tallest mountain in the country, also called Doi Inthanon. Trekking in the area is a popular activity. Walkers are treated to amazing views of lush rainforests and cascading waterfalls. Doi Inthanon National Park is a haven for flora and fauna, with around 360 bird species calling it home. Some are unique to this region of Thailand.
The summit of Doi Inthanon mountain is 2565 meters above sea level and has several trails and treks on and around it. Treks can take anywhere from a couple of hours to multiple days. Many people choose to spend a night on the mountain, to really soak in the impressive scenery of the national park. The temperature near the top of the mountain is far chillier than at ground level, due to the high elevation, so remember to pack a couple of extra layers, particularly if you plan on spending the night.
Bali – Mount Agung
Majestic Mount Agung is Bali’s highest mountain and is a sacred part of the Indonesian landscape. It dominates the skyline on the east of the island, with a summit reaching 3142 meters above sea level. Mount Agung (also known as Gunung Agung) is so tall that it affects the surrounding weather. Rain clouds are caught on the west side of the volcano, making the western slopes lush, green, and fertile. The eastern side, by contrast, is dry and barren.
Mount Agung is believed by Balinese people to be the home of the gods and is revered as a sacred place. It is so important that Pura Besakih, the Mother of Indonesian temples, is located on the volcano. Reaching Mount Agung’s craters is a challenging climb through lush Indonesian rainforests. There are two trails, the toughest being the trail next to Pura Besakih. The second starts at Pura Pasir Agung. Climbers who make the trip are rewarded with fantastic views over Bali, and its neighboring island Lombok.
Mountain vacations in the USA
Colorado is the ultimate vacation destination for mountain lovers. Home to the spectacular Rocky Mountains, the state is the place to go for stunning landscapes and adrenaline-fuelled outdoor adventures. The tallest mountain in Colorado is the mighty Mount Elbert, with an elevation of 4401m above sea level. It is a great destination for hiking and mountaineering. Another of Colorado’s most famous peaks is Copper Mountain. It’s a popular spot all year-round, but it takes on a special beauty in the cold winter months, when fine, soft snow blankets the mountainside.
It comes as no surprise that the Colorado mountain ranges are some of the best in the USA for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports. The state is full of pretty mountain towns, such as Breckenridge, Aspen, Vail, and Boulder, all of which are brilliant bases for exploring the undulating landscape. For more US ski inspiration, check out our guide to the 2021/2022 winter season in the States.
The Sierra Nevada mountains in California
It may be better known for hot, dry weather and glorious beaches, but California also has some pretty impressive mountain ranges. The Sierra Nevada are the most famous California mountains, with the tallest being the magnificent Mount Whitney. Standing at 4421m above sea level, Mount Whitney is one of California’s greatest hikes. The most popular trail is the Mt Whitney Trail day hike, which takes 12 to 14 hours covering 22 miles of spectacular scenery.
You enter the trail in Inyo National Forest, and the summit is in Sequoia National Park. Hikers need a permit to do the trek, which can be organized from the government recreation website. The hike is beautiful. If you’re inexperienced, it is better to plan a summer climb, when the snow and ice will have melted away from the paths. July to September are generally free from snow. For more ideas for a hiking holiday in the US, check out our guide to great American hikes.
The Sierra Nevada has even more to offer outdoor enthusiasts. Big Bear Mountain is one of California’s best ski destinations. The resort at Big Bear features excellent ski runs, as well as snowboarding, night sessions, golf, and mountain biking.
Montana mountain ranges
Montana is home to one of America’s most iconic mountain ranges, The Rockies. This stunning landscape attracts visitors from all over the world to enjoy the crisp, fresh air and awe-inspiring scenery. The tallest mountain in Montana is Wilson Peak, which stands at an impressive 4281m above sea level. It is a top spot for hiking, wilderness trails, and mountain biking, and is a favorite destination for outdoor enthusiasts all year-round.
Another draw of the Rocky Mountains in Montana is that it has one of the country’s greatest ski resorts; Big Sky. The area is fantastic for beginner and advanced skiers, as well as being a great place for fun family vacations. Take a look at our guide to all things Big Sky for more mountain vacation inspiration.
The Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee
The best-known mountains in Tennessee, and perhaps in the US, are the magnificent Great Smoky Mountains that stretch along the Tennessee-North Carolina border and are a region of the famous Appalachian Mountain range. The best way to visit this ever-changing landscape is to go to the USA’s most visited national park, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This beloved mountain range in Tennessee gets its name from the persistent morning fog which blankets the landscape in an eerie shroud of misty blue. Wildlife watching is one of the most popular activities in the park. There are over 17000 species of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles recorded in the Great Smoky Mountains, including 1500 black bears.
The Sierra de la Laguna mountain range in Mexico
Baja California in Mexico is one of the most contradictory landscapes on Earth, a dry, arid desert between glittering azure oceans, with a spine of jagged mountain peaks. These are the Sierra de la Laguna mountains in Mexico, a foreboding stretch of land which attracts hikers, naturalists, and mountain bikers to the sparse landscape.
The Sierra de la Laguna is not home to the tallest mountain in Mexico – that honor goes to Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltépetl) which stands at an immense 5675 m above sea level, making it the third highest mountain in North America. The peaks in the Sierra de la Laguna reach a more modest elevation of 2133 m, but being less lofty has one benefit; the landscape in the area is varied, with lush, verdant forests neighbored by bone-dry boulder fields.
Mountains in the Caribbean
The Blue Mountains in Jamaica
Coffee fans might be familiar with our next mountain! Of all the mountains in Jamaica, the Blue Mountains are the most well-known. This is because they produce some of the most expensive coffee beans in the world. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee commands a high price because it takes a very long time to grow and produce. This is because of the unique climate and soil conditions of the Blue Mountains.
It’s not just beans that make The Blue Mountains a must-visit place in Jamaica. Blue Mountain peak, which is the highest point on the island, reaches 2256m at its summit. There are two trails that you can follow to the top of the mountain. Once there, intrepid hikers get to enjoy spectacular views of Jamaica and the Caribbean sea.
Dominican Republic – Pico Duarte
The Dominican Republic is not short of a mountain or two. In fact, there are four mountain ranges on the island; the Cordillera Septentrional, Cordillera Central, Sierra de Neiba, and the Sierra de Bahoruco. The Cordillera is the biggest and is also where the tallest mountain in the Caribbean is located. Pico Duarte is the most magnificent of the Dominican Republic mountains. It can be climbed, but the hike is a pretty intense experience. It takes at least 2 full days to reach the summit.
Book your vacation home with Top Villas
You don’t have to move mountains to find a fabulous deal on stunning villas and vacation homes. Here at Top Villas, we have a fantastic selection of ski homes in the mountains and rental properties in beautiful places worldwide. We also have a great range of awesome Travel Extras, including car hire, grocery delivery, and celebration hampers, which you can order to make your vacation even more special.